My inspiration for exploration started with the movie Space Camp. (Stop laughing.) I watched it for the first time on vacation in Florida when I was 10, and it immediately captured my imagination. Kids having fun learning about space and finding themselves launched to orbit, because a robot believed in a boy…. and along the way discovering what was in them and accomplishing a mission no one believed possible.
It really is what NASA is about. Not the accidentally-launching-kids-into-orbit part, but the “okay, we-can-do-this” part. The focus that says it might not have gone like we had expected, but we’ll find another way. The confidence that you might be a Space Camper today, but if you study and work hard and stick with your team, you might be landing Atlantis tomorrow.
It’s sadly easy to become uninspired, though - to allow the paperwork and the deadlines and the meetings to pile up and deflate your passion, to make you forget why you are here. So here are 7 things to remind you about why we explore and why it matters, to help you think differently about today so that our tomorrow will be different when we get there.
#1: Fragile Oasis (fragileoasis.org) asks us “what kind of world do you want?”
The vital question that changes everything. What kind of world do you want? And what are you doing to shape it toward that?
If you haven’t asked yourself this question lately, you really should.
#2: STS-135 Flight Director Tony Ceccacci’s post-landing handover speech to Mission Control:
I thought I would cry when Atlantis landed, but I did okay until Tony gave this little talk to the team. It’s so easy to get complacent, to think that your job doesn’t matter, or that it isn’t going anywhere. Often it feels like the agency is caught in the middle, and we forget that pride of doing something incredibly special that very few other organizations have ever accomplished. He reminds them that they are the ones who have sent the crew to space and brought them back safely, and they are the best in the world at it.
#3: The online petition to save the James Webb Space Telescope:
I hope you’ve seen this, because I love it: people are engaging their congressional leadership to try and save the next space telescope. There are t-shirts and facebook groups and I even heard about attempts to start a non-profit. I can’t help but believe that the amazing film Hubble 3D helped with this, taught the public the incredible value of this technology and what we can learn about ourselves from the universe around us. This is the people’s space agency, and they are making their voice heard about it.
If you haven’t signed this yet, go do it right now.
#4: Threadless creates a design challenge for the Final Frontier:
Here’s a fun one to throw in with the serious. Threadless is an amazing example of crowdsourcing design out to the public.
Wonder what the public view of exploration is? Go check it out and vote for your favorite.
#5: The plaque flown on Atlantis during STS-135:
Commander Chris Ferguson concluded the STS-135 crew return ceremony with the story of this little plaque that they left in the orbiter after the mission.
“This plaque flew on the final Space Shuttle Mission in July, 2011. From the fortunate few who have served in space to the thousands who make spaceflight a reality, thank you for keeping the dream alive. Your passion for these amazing space ships will always stand as proof of what this country can do when it dares to be bold!”
That’s the charge right there from the commander of the final mission.
Do we dare to be bold? Are we going where the current takes us? or where no other has gone before?
#6: Popular Science petitions Congress to keep human spaceflight alive:
My favorite part is where author John Mahoney notes: “But the reason an estimated one million people packed up their cars and RVs to drive to the Space Coast for a space shuttle launch is because it is put on by the people. Everyone who made that launch possible—in the truest definition of a government employee, they’re our representatives in this incredible project. We don’t just associate ourselves with them, we live through them. That means something. They’ve devoted their life to this very civil, very scientific cause—the exploration of outer space.”
REAL PEOPLE. I was privileged to watch the STS-135 launch with the VIP guests of the Space Shuttle Program. I sat in a room with dozens of people who had worked on Shuttle for 25-30 years. Managers, technicians, engineers, administrators. Their names might never be known but they make this possible. I work with some of these real people who are keeping the dream alive. My team that does the hard work of changing policy, technology, and culture so that NASA is ready to meet the future challenges. My friend leaving NASA for grad school in space policy so that she can help the NASA of tomorrow be ready for the work it needs to do.
But I had to save the best for last.
#7: Sawyer Rosenstein’s essay on BoingBoing “Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon”: http://boingboing.net/2011/07/26/don’t-tell-me-the-sky-is-the-limit-when-there-are-footprints-on-the-moon.html
Sawyer (@thenasaman) won’t let go of the dream, no matter what his circumstances might tell him. He shows up. He asks questions about human spaceflight. He didn’t like how the media talked about NASA? He starts his own podcast and does something new. He supports NASA in the thick and the thin, the popular, well-known missions… and the not-so-popular. He doesn’t just think that space is cool - he believes that the work NASA does might also one day enable him to walk again.
You’re my hero, Sawyer, and we’re in this thing together. If you aren’t giving up, I’m not giving up either.
I kind of want to see those footprints on the moon myself.
Where have you been inspired about exploration lately?
What have you done to inspire others? Let us know!